Nearly half firefighter job-related deaths across the country are caused by sudden cardiac events, according to study

Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 6:40 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - According to a report, nearly half of all firefighter duty-related deaths across the country are caused by sudden cardiac deaths.

The Springfield Fire Department says education is crucial in prevention.

Springfield Fire Department’s Division Chief Kelly Ash says physical fitness is also crucial, with the department dedicating an hour a day to keeping firefighters in shape.

”Firefighting often is not a marathon. It’s a sprint,” Division Chief Ash says. “Our heart rate is at max. All of our physical efforts to get the fire out or to rescue a victim.”

Division Chief Ash says firefighters have 40 to 50 pounds of gear, which causes their body core temperature to rise quickly.

“For a hot day like this, our bodies can’t breathe,” Division Chief Ash says. “We can’t perspire. All that evaporation, which is the part that cools our body that doesn’t happen with all the fire gear.”

Ozark Fire Chief Jarett Metheny says sleep schedules also play a role in this.

“Our firefighters work either 24 or 48-hour shifts, and so they’re not on a regular sleep pattern, and that has a significant contribution to cardiovascular risk,” Chief Metheny says.

Prevention is key.

Chief Metheny says consultants come to the Ozark Fire Protection District for health and wellness assessments.

“Each month, they will do an assessment, a follow-up, an educational component,” Chief Metheny says. “We may bring in a dietician to help us understand what types of activities we can take to help reduce those cardiovascular health disease.”

Chief Metheny says his department also focuses on mental and emotional health.

“The stress that our firefighters are under every day creates some additional risk factors, and so we try to come up with as many different mitigation factors that we can,” Chief Metheny says.

Division Chief Ash says Springfield has had firefighters suffer from over-exertion. Luckily, Division Chief Ash says they were all okay.

“That’s a very stressful situation where you’ve got the fire, you may have some other patients and other victims on scene, and then one of your own also goes down,” Division Chief Ash says. “It’s a very stressful event. Very high anxiety.”

Both departments also mentioned the importance of keeping their crews hydrated, especially during these hot days.

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